George Washington owned a few mules in Mount Vernon, his plantation, and he was anxious to improve their breed. Spain was known to have the best jackasses, particularly those from the region of Zamora, which when crossed with mares would produce excellent mules. However, the Spanish Crown expressly forbade the export of any type of stud animal. Diego de Gardoqui, then Spanish ambassador to the United States and a personal friend of Washington, alerted the Secretary of State, Count of Floridablanca, to Washington’s desires. The count informed King Carlos III, who decided to send a pair of donkeys from the region of Zamora to the American president, as a personal gift. Unfortunately, one of the animals died during the journey across the Atlantic. The surviving jackass arrived in Virginia on December 19, 1785, and Washington embarked on a successful effort in animal husbandry, breeding mules.
During John Jay’s tenure in Spain as representative of Congress, between 1780 and 1781, he was very favorably impressed with the Andalusian horse, a breed highly coveted since antiquity. It was considered among the best horses in the world for its agility, beauty, and qualities as a war horse. Gardoqui arranged for a horse from the Stables of the Royal Guard to be sent to New York as a present to Jay, who had to ask Congress for a special exemption before accepting the valuable gift.